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‘Seven to Save’: Did It Work? 

The western blockfront of Fifth Avenue between 13th and 14th Street in the neighborhood South of Union Square.

Village Preservation’s proposed South of Union Square Historic District was recently named one of 2022-2023’s “Seven to Save” — the biannual list of the most important endangered historic sites in New York State — by the Preservation League of New York State. This designation shines a spotlight on the incredibly valuable and varied architecture of this neighborhood, and its deep connections to civil rights and social justice history as well as transformative artistic, literary, and musical movements. “Seven to Save” can be a powerful advocacy tool in seeking New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designation of this important historic district. Two other Village Preservation advocacy campaigns have been awarded “Seven to Save” status over the years. We thought it worth taking a look at where they are now, and how “Seven to Save” fortified our efforts to protect these historic and endangered areas. 

2002: GANSEVOORT MARKET 

The Gansevoort Market Historic District.

The Gansevoort Market Historic District is an architecturally and culturally rich neighborhood key to the history of the commercial development of New York City in the late 19th and early 20th century. In 1999, the Village Preservation walked through Gansevoort Market with then-Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Jennifer Raab and her staff to advocate for the historic and architectural merit of the district. While not entirely convinced, the LPC agreed to entertain the possibility of a new historic district for Gansevoort Market if a well-research argument could be made. Soon after, Village Preservation and its ”Save Gansevoort Market” project submitted a formal request for evaluation to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in October 2001. Upon review of the report, LPC determined that Gansevoort Market district evokes a unique “sense of place” and tells a rich story about the market and industrial history of New York from the late 1800s to the 1930s, but neglected to calendar a hearing for the proposed Gansevoort Market Historic District. LPC promised to take action on this proposal by the second half of 2002. In August 2002, the Gansevoort Market Historic District was determined eligible for the New York State and National Register of Historic Places. Still, there was no movement from LPC to calendar the proposed district. The Gansevoort Market Historic District was selected as one of 2002’s “Seven to Save” by the Preservation League of New York State in November 2002. Shortly thereafter, the LPC calendared the hearing for March 18, 2002. The hearing was a massive success with one of the larger turnouts in recent memory including residents, business owners, andproperty owners; local elected officials and community groups; local, state, and national preservationists; as well as the meatpackers union representing the legacy of workers in the area. After a three-year campaign, the Gansevoort Market Historic District was officially designated on September 9, 2003. 

2012: SOUTH VILLAGE

Old Law Tenements in the South Village.

At the end of 2006, Village Preservation submitted a formal request for evaluation to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for the South Village, the area south of Washington Square Park and West 4th Street.  The request was the result of four years of exhaustive research on this area by Village Preservation and a report we commissioned and guided by renowned architectural historian Andrew Dolkart on the history and architecture of the South Village, supporting our argument for landmark protections for the area.  The report and proposal detail the South Village’s unique historic significance as an archetypal immigrant community and as a crucial stepping-stone for Italians in America; as a laboratory of working-class architecture and an intact vestige of turn-of-the-last century New York; as the site of important cultural innovations and events; and as an important location in the history of New York’s African-American and lesbian and gay communities.  The proposed designation was even more compelling because so much of the 19th and early-20th century built fabric of the area remained intact. This is one of the few places where the landscape of working-class New York was virtually unaltered. In 2010, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the first third of the proposed South Village Historic District known as the Greenwich Village Historic District Extension II.  Though the victory was sweet, much of the area was left unprotected. On April 10, 2011, GVSHP held a rally in front of the Children’s Aid Society on Sullivan Street calling upon the City to landmark the remaining two-thirds of the proposed South Village Historic District as soon as possible.  We continued the pressure by seeking New York State “Seven to Save” designation for the South Village.  On March 21, 2012, Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League of New York State announced the inclusion of the South Village on the League’s annual “Seven to Save” list, which highlights the most important endangered historic places throughout the state.  To further increase the pressure, we also pursued listing for the entire South Village on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places, which was finalized in December of 2013 (click HERE for the designation report).  We then made a great leap forward when in December 2013 the LPC finally designated the South Village Historic District (map), a two hundred forty-building, thirteen-block section of Greenwich Village south of Washington Square Park, and the second phase of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s (GVSHP) proposed South Village Historic District.  The final third, known as the Sullivan-Thompson Historic District, was designated in December 2016, capping off this 15-year long campaign. In total, Village Preservation protected 34 square blocks and 635 buildings in the historic South Village!

“Seven to Save” recognition served as a significant turning point in securing landmark designation for Gansevoort Market and the South Village, and we know that it will play an integral role in preserving the neighborhood South of Union Square. With a new mayoral administration, Village Preservation is releasing new information, programs, and initiatives about the area South of Union Square. To learn more about the neighborhood, check out our new and frequently updated South of Union Square Map and Tours. Village Preservation has recently received a series of extraordinary letters from individuals across the world, expressing support for our campaign to landmark a historic district south of Union Square. To help landmark these incredible historic structures and other buildings in this area, click here.

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